Body cameras next big thing for Taser: analyst

A police officer wears a body camera.
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A police officer wears a body camera.

As police force lethal actions have spurred national controversy, officer-worn cameras have attracted Wall Street's attention. Oppenheimer started Taser International with an "outperfom" rating on Monday, saying the nonlethal weapons maker will see similar success with its new body camera product.

Taser brand electroshock guns are carried by about half of the 780,000 U.S. domestic police force and the company's on-officer cameras could equal that market penetration in coming years, analyst Andrew Uerkwitz wrote in the report.

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Conducted electrical weapons (CEW) "success has shaped Taser into a trusted name in the police technology industry," the report said. "We believe Taser will now be able to push its Axon camera line and new CEW products in front of established connections within 95 percent of U.S. police departments."

"Adoption will also be fueled by public demand for greater police transparency," Uerkwitz said in the report.

Major U.S. cities have already taken their own steps towards equipping their police officers with body cameras. Last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it is buying 860 body-worn cameras from Taser as well as a five-year subscription to Taser's video management system, The city plans to include funds for a total of 7,000 body-worn cameras in the next budget year.

The New York City Police Department, which has about 34,500 officers, announced in September that it would begin to test two body cameras, one made by Taser and the other by private firm Vievu.

Body cameras will likely spread to police forces nationwide in some form. U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri, introduced legislation this month that would require police officers to wear body cameras. On Dec. 1, President Barack Obama issued a proposal that included a $75 million allocation of federal funding for a 50 percent matching program over three years for state and local police agencies to purchase 50,000 body cameras.

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"In a time where even the most minute news stories of excessive police force have the ability to instantly go viral, pressure will mount on police departments to provide video evidence that qualifies actions," stated the Oppenheimer report. "TASR shares surged 30 percent following the shooting in August of unarmed teen Michael Brown, and the lack of crime scene documentation."

Oppenheimer's target price of $28 on Taser is 16.7 percent above Friday's closing price of $23.98.